Natalie Jones Pantaleon
Sunday Survival Story! Preschool teacher uses CPR training to save 2 year old
Updated: Jun 2, 2019
This story comes to us from the Sun Sentinel, Coconut Creek, FL from May 17, 2014
Another 2-year-old. Another pool. But on Saturday, a preschool teacher with CPR training made the difference.
A drowning at St. Andrews at Winston Park on Lyons Road was averted because Jennifer Richardson knew what to do and resuscitated the girl even before paramedics arrived.
The girl, whose name was not released, was taken to Northwest Regional Medical Center for precautionary measures, police spokeswoman Sgt. Kathryn Markland said.
The toddler is the same age as twins who drowned in a Deerfield Beach pool in April, the same age as another twin who drowned in Sunrise in March and whose twin was hospitalized for months after nearly drowning.
Three other children — a 3-year-old boy in Coral Springs and 6- and 10-year-old boys in Delray Beach — also drowned in April.
The St. Andrew's pool was crowded with children attending a birthday party and their hovering parents when the toddler, whose family wasn't part of the party, went underwater shortly after 1 p.m..
Richardson, who lives west of Boca Raton and teaches at Boca's Professional Learning Academy on Lyons Road, was near the steps of the pool with her own son when the girl's mother stepped away from the child to get sunscreen from a bag by a nearby chair.
Richardson, who was paying attention to her own son, didn't notice the girl in trouble until the mother's shout.
She helped pull the girl from the pool, but she said the toddler had already turned purple and was very stiff. Others immediately tried to help, sticking fingers down the girl's throat or attempting mouth-to-mouth resuscitation. That's when Richardson stepped in, knowing from her training that chest compressions were the first thing the child needed.
Norbert Witwicki, who like Richardson was attending the birthday party, quickly realized she needed his help.
"I was pushing people away from her. I was protecting her so that she could do what she's doing," Witwicki said.
Said Richardson: "I can't imagine if we weren't there, because they were all doing the wrong thing. Those seconds are life-changing."
Witwicki was scared for the toddler.
"That little baby, her neck got so stiff," Witwicki said. He wanted to turn her head to the side for when the water came out, but couldn't.
After three sets of compressions, the water came out and the child's color started coming back, Richardson said, but soon started turning purple again.
"We did more compressions," Richardson said. "She puked and puked and puked."
Richardson said it was the first time she had had to use her CPR training. An experience she had of her own son falling into a pool when she was momentarily distracted raced through her mind.
"He was just there for a second, in a blink of an eye," Richardson said. "You never know."
Erica Brown, who was at the party, knows Richardson saved the child's life.
"She's a godsend," Brown said. "Everybody has their children to tuck in tonight."
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Since this occurred, Jennifer has started two businesses to prevent drowning. She became an Infant Swimming Resource Instructor and started a business to train people on CPR, called 'Ready, Set, Save'.
This story highlights the importance of knowing how to perform CPR in a life saving situation. If you don't know CPR, please visit www.redcross.org to find a local class.